May 28, 2020
I’m sure you saw in the media, and/or on our social media, that we had some flooding again this week. When we experience heavy rains, the drains simply get overwhelmed and they can’t keep up. Our teams have developed processes to predict when we need to plan for flooding in order to prevent the water from building up by the kennels, but it does take time and equipment, so we appreciate the support we’re receiving to fund that staff time, better pumps, etc.
Related to our facility, we’ve had license agreements with the City of Austin to be here on our Town Lake campus since 2012, but we’ve spent the last few years vetting opportunities for renovating and rebuilding on the property. We have used the services of engineers, architects, contractors, and a board committee to understand the property to the best of our abilities so that we can commit to a 25-year agreement with the city. The property is complicated, and we were just getting the full picture immediately prior to the pandemic, so the city council voted last week to give us two six-month extensions so that we can pick back up where we left off as soon as we are able. COVID-19 has put plans on hold and will likely change our design as we think about what we, as both an organization and a community, need for the future of animal services.
Also, as a reminder, our shelter is still closed. We’re continuing to operate virtually and via curbside appointments only for everything from clinic needs and foster pickups to adoptions. We are going to continue operating this way for the indefinite future, as we are committed to keeping our campus staffed at 25 percent or less in order to prevent the spread of the virus. This is in line with the city’s recommendations.
We are still concerned with continuing to halt the spread of the virus. We’re checking the city’s website daily. For anyone unaware, there has been an increase in hospitalizations. The only things we may consider at this point are bringing in a few additional volunteers and reopening our Thrift stores in a very limited way with many new precautionary measures.
P.S. We’ve almost reached the end of our Constant Companions Month this month! We received a generous $4,000 match and we’re still trying to fill that with new sign ups by the end of the week! Sign up here to become a Constant Companion, and be entered into a drawing to win a YETI dog bed!
May 21, 2020
We want to remind everyone that our Town Lake campus is still closed to the public. Walk up visitors, browsing of animals, etc., is still not allowed for the time being. As long as positive cases continue to increase in Austin, we will remain in this mode of operation in order to keep everyone safe. We are continuing clinic visits and adoption and foster pickups car side by appointment only. These processes are doing great so we see no reason to adjust yet when we can continue to have these extra precautions in place – all the while, animals are still getting the care they need and into homes.
So far in May, cat adoptions are up by 114% over May of last year and dog adoptions are up by 50% over last year! We have 797 cats and 513 dogs in foster right now, about 400 more than we would typically have at this period of time. We also have more long-stay dogs (dogs who have been with us more than 300 days) in homes than ever before, and we’ve found amazing correlations with more of these dogs getting adopted because they are able to spend time in a foster home. This is amazing! Our dog, cat, and foster teams are doing such a great job, and we’re so grateful to all the fosters and adopters who have come forward to help, enabling us to keep our number of animals on site very low. We need to maintain this network of foster homes. We will continue to provide any support we can to fosters in order to ensure that their experience is as smooth and rewarding as possible! For more information and statistics on changes on animals in shelters, foster homes, and adoptive homes during COVID-19, click here.
We’re restarting spay-neuter in a big way now that we have adjusted our protocols and feel confident we can prevent the spread of COVID-19 in our clinic. We’ll be doing about 45 procedures a day, five days a week, to catch up. We ask that anyone with a pet who has an appointment please help us stick to the schedule.
Our Thrift stores remain closed and we still cannot accept donations, but we’re continuing to re-evaluate each week and may have an update the first few days of June. Our Thrift teams are taking advantage of the extra time and reorganizing the stores. I got a sneak peek and they look amazing! Our thrifters can look forward to a great selection when we do open again.
May 14, 2020
Happy Thursday, everyone!
Clinic Continues Spay and Neuter Surgeries
The biggest change we have to our operations this week is the preparations we have underway for spay and neuter surgeries. When we went to essential services only during the quick adjustment at the onset of the pandemic, we postponed many of our elective surgeries to decrease the number of people working in our small clinic. Now that our teams have made incredible adjustments to our processes and procedures to integrate the social distancing guidelines and increased disinfecting procedures to keep everyone safe, we feel comfortable adding surgery hours back into the clinic schedule.
We expect it will take us about eight weeks, with 4-5 surgery days each week, to get back on track with the completion of spay and neuter surgeries, and so we are able to handle the volume of surgical needs the rest of the year. We appreciate everyone’s patience, especially those who are fostering or have pre-adopted animals. Please watch for emails from our managers for information on hours, the process for scheduling appointments, and to answer any questions you have about changes as we make them to our clinic operations.
Constant Companion Month
We have designated May Constant Companion Month! This month we are honoring our monthly donors, and we are asking for those of you who aren’t yet, but are able to sign up, to become Constant Companions. We run on donations and do not receive government funds. By committing to support our organization on a monthly basis, we are able to count on reliable, regular, expected funding to ensure our programs are sustainable. These consistent gifts help us, for instance, during the summer months when donating to nonprofits like ours isn’t always top of mind for people busy with vacations and summer breaks. Our Constant Companions are our lifeblood, and we’re so grateful for any of you willing to become part of this incredible important group of supporters. Please click here to learn more.
Petco Foundation Pledge to Save Pet Lives
A very important partner of ours, the Petco Foundation, also just launched a campaign to inspire people to pledge to save pet lives by adopting a shelter pet, fostering a pet, volunteering in their local community, and/or making a lifesaving donation. The foster piece, in particular, is incredibly important, because while we saw an amazing outpouring of offers for new foster homes for shelter pets at the onset of the crisis, we need to keep that network of foster homes post-pandemic. There is a fear that pets in foster homes will return to the shelter in high volumes as states are reopening and people are going back to work. We’re actually seeing early signs of this at APA!, so we are urgently requesting families who have fostered to continue opening your homes to APA! foster animals. We’re always looking for new fosters too! Click here to apply. If you have applied and are still interested, please be sure to follow up.
Thank You Grounds & Hounds!
P.S. For those of you thinking of us during the rain, we fared pretty well! For those of you who don’t know, our Town Lake facility requires a lot of maintenance to prevent flooding when there are strong rains. Thank you so much to our dedicated staff who keep our facilities flood-free, and thank you again to all of our fosters and adopters, as our facility lucky remains very empty since you’ve opened your homes to APA! animals.
May 8, 2020
Mayor Adler and Travis County Judge Eckhardt did a press conference today reinforcing the fact that the virus is definitely not contained in Austin. We had 10 hospitalizations locally at the end of March and almost 100 now. It is incredibly important to maintain precautions in our area because continuing at this rate could put us at risk of a surge we can't handle since our hospital bed max is 1,000.
We are continuing to follow all the social distancing guidelines and maintain our restrictions at our locations. Our shelter is still closed to the public and walk-up visitors are not allowed on the property. We continue to coordinate clinic needs and animal transports carside and by appointment only, and we are still doing as much remotely as we can. As of today, the city shelter, Austin Animal Center, also began offering adoptions of dogs with appointment-only curbside meet and greets. Click here for more information.
Looking at our current sheltering ecosystem in Austin, we’ve realized there is a lot of work to be done to identify all of our resources in the community. We’ve started a mapping process with the City of Austin to document all the things Austinites might need if they find a stray or lost pet, if a pet needs to be rehomed, or if there are potential resources that could help keep an animal in the home. We’re hoping this process will be completed in the next couple weeks. Once we feel confident in our findings, this information will be extensively shared in the community so that awareness of these resources begins to increase, and gaps can start to be filled.
We want the community to be aware of this project now because we believe it’s important work, work that is needed to keep Austin the pet friendly city it is during these uncertain times, as well as important resources to make for an even better, and more supported, city for animals in the future. We know that 65% of pet owners feel their animal family members are just as important to them as their human family members. We are worried that the lasting effects of COVID-19 will affect animals staying in homes, so with this infrastructure, we can connect all the great community partners to people who need them and everyone understands where those resources are.
I also wanted to thank everyone who donated during our Giving Tuesday Now fundraising campaign. We met our $30,000 dollar match from Jordan and Ivana (thank you again Hicks family) and we continue to be so blown away by the community’s support during this time. If you missed making a Giving Tuesday Now gift and still want to, please click here.
Thank you so much for your continued support of our mission, and the animals impacted by our continuation!
May 2, 2020
Happy May, everyone!
We had planned to open our Thrift stores on Friday in line with the governor’s latest restrictions lifted for retail, and had planned a number of measures for disinfecting, crowd control, enforcing the mask protocol, and social distancing guidelines, etc., however, we are thrilled to announce that we just heard we're receiving the Paycheck Protection Program loan!
You may remember that we had applied to this Small Business Administration program to help recoup our losses from having to close our Thrift stores and protect our employees, but we originally had not been chosen as a recipient.
Now that we have some guaranteed protection for those programs and employees who would be affected by the loss of revenue through Thrift, and even though we felt we could safely open our stores, we have decided to keep our Thrift stores closed. We will make the decision to reopen by evaluating our needs week-by-week. This means we are not accepting donations at our Thrift stores for the time being either. We're sorry for any confusion and want to thank Ryan Coaxum with Guaranty Bank & Trust for the help with securing this supplemental funding!
The city animal shelter will also remain closed until at least May 29, which means that city animal services will continue only providing emergency pick up and intake of dangerous, sick, or injured loose animals. In the meantime, we will continue to work with them to support animals in the community that may have typically gone into the system but are currently not due to limited services. This is a joint process, one that takes time, but we’re building a new way of supporting animals in the community without bringing them to the city animal shelter, which will be an incredible long term effort.
There is also a lot of conversation right now in the animal welfare community about fosters and what happens if people fostering animals for quarantine start going back to work. We want to support our community of fosters during the transition and work on any ways to keep animals in these foster homes so they don’t come back to the shelter. We need to keep our amount of animals at the shelter low so we can keep our amount of people at the shelter low. Our foster teams will work with fosters on how to do training at home, how to promote the pet for adoption, etc; and, we’ve found there are one million potential adopters in Austin so we’re thrilled we can keep moving animals through the system to their forever homes and utilize our foster network to save more and more animal livefs.
Also, Tuesday, May 5th is the new Giving Tuesday Now for nonprofits, like us, which need your help to recoup losses and recover from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis. Every dollar donated to APA! today through the end of the day Tuesday up to $30,000 will be graciously matched by our friends Jordan and Ivana Hicks. Thank you, Hicks family! Support Austin Pets Alive! on this global day of giving or make your donation early here. You can also help us with your own Giving Tuesday Now fundraiser for APA! on Facebook. Thank you for your continued support of our lifesaving efforts during these uncertain times!
April 28, 2020
Governor Abbott released his latest executive order for Texas yesterday, announcing that all Texas Stay-At-Home orders will end this Thursday. He's also specified the specific business sectors allowed to reopen this Friday (his first phase of reopening Texas). These sectors include retail stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums, and libraries – but only at 25% capacity. What this means for us is 1) No change to our shelter operations right now, and 2) Our Thrift stores can open again on Friday.
We will be monitoring carefully what effect this has on our current operations, but we want to reinforce that we are not lifting any of our restrictions at this time. We are not allowing walk-up, foot traffic at either our TLAC or Tarrytown locations, and even though he's not renewing the stay at home order, the Governor has specified social distancing guidelines and special restrictions for immunocompromised still apply. We’ll continue our virtual meet and greets and adoptions for animals, carside clinic drop offs and pickups for appointments, our rotating staff teams on site with many staff continuing to work remotely, etc. We have also heard that AAC does not plan to reopen or change anything at this time, unless directed otherwise by the city manager, so we will remain focused on keeping the kennels empty and utilizing this time to think through our new normal and improvements to community-centric animal care in a new way post-pandemic.
For our Thrift stores reopening Friday, our hours for phase 1 will be everyday from 12PM-6PM. We will limit to 15 people in the store at a time, a face mask will be required, all customers and cashiers must maintain a 6-foot social distance, and credit cards will be the preferred method of payment. Due to overwhelming support this weekend when we started accepting donations again, we are temporarily not accepting donations. We’re so appreciative of the support! Too many donated items is a great problem to have. We will have the capacity to accept donations again beginning Monday, May 4.
We are remaining extremely cautious during this time. We experienced a lot of lost revenue from the Thrift stores being closed during this time so it is important for us to reopen when we can, but please don’t forget you can help us recoup our losses directly through donating or shopping our online merchandise.
April 27, 2020
With the news last week that two pet cats in separate parts of New York have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, (the virus that causes COVID-19), we want to remind everyone to stay informed, stay calm, and protect pets. There is still no evidence the virus can transfer from pets to people, and we don’t want people to abandon their pets, fear community cats, or let these headlines unnecessarily alarm people and threaten animals.
There is also a great deal of evidence that most animals won’t get the virus. A company called IDEXX, which does different types of testing for viruses, has completed more than 5,000 cat and dog tests for COVID-19 during this pandemic in countries with a lot of spread among people, and all the results were negative. Recommendations from the CDC and leading animal expert groups like the American Veterinary Medical Association have not changed. Homeless animals who need help can still come to shelters without fear for shelter staff and volunteers. Pets with owners who test positive for COVID-19 should home quarantine. If spread among pets was going to be a major concern, it would be already, and even the very few animals we’ve heard that have tested positive experienced only mild symptoms. We are not panicking and will continue to provide you with any differing updates. For more on this, visit this blog post we published through our national education division, American Pets Alive!.
The latest changes with our operations amid COVID-19 are: We are once again accepting donations at two of our Thrift stores, and all of our stores are now taking advantage of the announcement that Texas retail can begin to-go orders. Click here to shop online with us so you can pick up your items curbside and here are the details to donate items to our Thrift stores:
Thank you for your continued support and donations. We also want to remind everyone to keep pets safe as we enter the hot weather months again. Many pet owners still don’t realize dogs can’t sweat like people do and it’s not safe to go on walks in the sun if the temperatures get too high. For tips on hot weather precautions to take with your pets, click here. Stay safe, everyone!
April 23, 2020
Happy Thursday, everyone!
I previously mentioned that we applied for the paycheck protection plan loan to help cover revenue losses we’ve experienced as a result of our thrift stores being closed and events being cancelled during this time, but unfortunately we didn’t get it. We did receive word from our bank that we are on deck, though, so if another wave of federal funding is approved we will hopefully be one of the first in line. We are very grateful for the donations we have already received from the community to help support our work,and if you’re able during this time, we’d really appreciate your continued support. We’re very proud that amidst this pandemic, we’re stable and able to focus on utilizing our amazing foster network right now (the largest I’ve heard of) to help other animal shelters at risk of having to kill animals, while keeping our shelter kennels at less than 30 percent full.
We’re continuing our conversations with the City of Austin about a plan for when animals begin coming back into Austin Animal Center when it reopens. We’re concerned about having animals coming into the city shelter indiscriminately again because that would mean a lot of people in the same space which we know is not safe. What Austin Animal Center is doing is exactly right, and what is working best amongst animal shelters across the country -decreasing animals on site at the main animal shelters. We know that this pandemic and the proper recovery from the effects of COVID-19 means a long, gradual resolution.
We’re utilizing this opportunity to help the city look for better ways to address each type of animal in need and potentially create a hotline or similar program. Right now, city services are addressing dangerous dogs in the community, sick or injured animals in the community, etc. but not taking in healthy stray animals or healthy owner surrenders of animals. To continue that, we need to work to create a more nuanced approach to animals with unique needs that don’t fit clearly into one of those scenarios – a healthy stray animal in a dangerous environment, like the median of a highway, for example, will need immediate help even though it is healthy.
We’re excited to be partnering with the City of Austin and other community groups to look at what processes like this could mean for animal welfare going forward. I think it’s an incredible opportunity to take a step back and find smarter solutions to save more lives rather than be tempted to go back to normal once allowed and fill the shelters up again. It’s time for an evolution of lifesaving in which we evaluate animals in need as individuals to determine whether they truly should come to the city animal shelter or whether they could receive the support they need where they are in their community. This is a process that will require patience and open-minded thinking , which we know this community is capable of because it has been done before to save more lives.
We also are continuing to reinforce preparedness for pet owners in the case of emergencies related to COVID-19 sickness. We rolled out a blog post and worksheet through our education division, American Pets Alive! (AmPA!), to help all of you who are pet owners. Use these resources to check that you’ve thought about your plan for your pets and have care instructions on one easy sheet you can leave somewhere obvious in your home, just in case.
April 20, 2020
Like the rest of our community, we are closely waiting for more details on the latest guidelines from the president, Governor Abbott, and our local officials on how our communities and economy will be slowly reopening in phases (depending on our ability to slow the spread of COVID-19 and maintain our resources for healthcare in our area). Governor Abbott’s executive order today establishes a statewide strike force for opening Texas in stages, guided by data and health experts. He established some small changes for healthcare tests and procedures, and reopened state parks and to-go retail with mandatory masks and social distancing restrictions remaining in place. So as of now, we are not affected and all our rules and processes remain in place; but another update will be provided April 27th and we’ll watch for that set of announcements closely.
We’ve had some amazing meetings the last few days with both the lost and found groups in Austin and with the City of Austin. The lost and found meeting was with the people behind the Austin Lost and Found Facebook page, as well at the TRAPRS group, which helps find and hold lost animals until they can be reunited with their owners. We’re working together on trying to improve the lost and found system city-wide so that community people can help get animals back to their owners faster. We want to support all the great work still happening to save lost pets faster, even during COVID.
The city meeting centered around what our new normal could look like post-pandemic for the government animal shelter services and what we, in turn, provide as service to them. As you know, Austin Pets Alive! supports the most at risk and vulnerable homeless animals who come to the city shelter (puppies suffering from parvovirus, baby kittens who need to be bottle fed, animals hit by cars and injured in other ways, as well as dogs with behavior challenges). We know we’ll still be needed for those cases, and APA! will still support them, but what we’re looking at is all the other healthy stray animals we also help within our shelters, and how we could improve the system to help them stay out of the shelter. We want to look at why those animals come to the city in the first place and expand virtual resources to keep them in homes in the first place. Together, we’re looking at really cutting edge solutions we, Austin, can launch coming out of the pandemic.
April 16, 2020
I wanted to open with some great news today, especially for our staff and regular volunteers who aren’t on site right now. Thanks to funds from a generous donor and the Barkitecture event last year, the electricity for three of our kennel buildings’ is being rewired right now for better supporting our heating and cooling! As many of you know, we do a lot with a little here, and the biggest challenge of this facility is the temperature control for our dogs (without constantly tripping the breakers). We’re also hoping that by applying our ideas for maintaining our foster network and building a new system for animal social services post-pandemic, we won’t even need more than three buildings!
There are also some exciting numbers to share:
We have 69 dogs in foster who were at the shelter more than 300 days. Only 24 remain, and we’re continuing to work hard to place them. These are the dogs who we are most proud to have placed because their unique needs are part of what makes our population of animals and the lifesaving we achieve so much different than most animal shelters. If you have a home setting that matches any of the following, please apply today: no children; no other pets; fenced-in backyard; first-floor apartment; low traffic; you live alone.
April 15, 2020
You may have seen media recently about COVID-19 and dogs. The most concerning was a study just released proposing that dogs were the intermediary or host of the virus before the outbreak amongst people. We are working daily with a group of international animal care and virus experts including veterinarians, internists, and epidemiologists, who have a lot of skepticism about this study, which was not peer reviewed.
Here are some resources debunking this:
Right now, nothing has changed in our guidance. We are not worried about animals spreading the virus to people, and we want to encourage all of our team members, supporters, and community members to continue thinking of ways that we can help animals; which include having a plan to care for your pet if you get sick and have to go to the hospital, and supporting the animal lifesaving efforts still underway.
As we continue saving lives and navigating this new normal, we’re also having great conversations internally, with the City of Austin, and other community groups about how we can continue to progress animal lifesaving. We’re looking at a new prototype model which we’re referring to as Animal Social Services. We’d like to find ways to focus more resources on community services (ie. for lost pets and those struggling to care for their pets, and prevent surrenders in the first place). In particular, we’d like to keep this large network of foster homes as the new normal so that animals are in a home versus being in a kennel.
We’re looking at some short term programs to launch quickly and also a longer term shift in community services for companion animals. We’re aiming to build on the great work our staff and volunteers already do in order to make an even more expansive network of community services for animals, which will result in more lives saved. As a community, we’ve built great momentum by increasing adoptions, foster homes, and in general community support. Together, we have no doubt that Austin will once again propel lifesaving in new ways coming out of this crisis.
April 14, 2020
Happy Monday, everyone,
I hope you all had a wonderful, if perhaps unconventional, Easter weekend.
Stay At Home Order
Today we are anticipating our local Austin-area stay-at-home order to be extended, which has already been extended until April 30 for the state of Texas. Governor Abbott also just extended resources for Austin/Travis County. Travis County Judge, Sarah Eckhardt, says she’s preparing the new order. Some of the latest local modeling predicts if city and county residents maintain a 50% reduction in activity, then a peak in cases will likely be seen in May. If a reduction of 75% in activity is achieved, then it would push back a peak until about June with the number of cases being fewer. So we will continue to anticipate that this will be our new normal – at least another couple months.
We also have a wonderful surprise for our adopters this week! Every person who adopts a pet from us starting today until Sunday, April 19, can receive a care package from UT alum and Arizona Cardinals linebacker Jordan Hicks and his wife, Ivana Hicks. These two incredible individuals wanted to do something to give back to people who are adopting during the COVID-19 pandemic. Thank you, Ivana and Jordan! We’re so grateful to everyone adopting and incredibly grateful to see this above and beyond generosity to support animals getting into homes. Those who adopt this week will receive information in their electronic paperwork and also an email with how to claim your package from the Hicks.
Lost & Found Pets
We’re getting the most questions right now around what to do with pets found during this time. We are providing resources on the APA! and AmPA! websites, and Austin Animal Center is also a great, local resource. Here are the basic steps to follow:
If you’ve found a dog:
If you’ve found a cat:
If you’ve found kittens: